You should tell the media about this!

It’s a really common piece of IEP advice. And, I get it. Our kids are treated horribly sometimes. They get bullied, sometimes even by school staff. Kids are denied much-needed academic interventions, often for reasons none other than a power trip. It’s natural to think, “If more people knew about this, I bet things would change!” But should you go to the media with your IEP concerns?

iep issues to news media

And while I will share personal examples later in the post, know that yes, I have personal experience with this.

Preaching to the Choir

I’m not going to list a bunch of examples or statistics about how our kids are mistreated. They are. Happens all day long, all across this country.

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The fight for Special Education Services is beyond my comprehension at this point. I used to think that it was all about money. That because schools don’t have enough money, they were panicked and just doing whatever they could to not provide services they cannot afford.

But as I sit here in 2019, many school districts are paying more in attorney fees than they are the services. That is, they will spend $10k-$15k to fight a parent for the ability to deny a $3k service or evaluation. It makes no sense.

In any event, many parents in our Facebook group make the claim, “Go to the media! People need to know about this!”

Is that good advice?

Should you go to the Media with your IEP issues?

Short answer is this. You have two options, yes or no. If you choose no, well, I don’t know what’s going to happen. Depends on what other path you pursue.

If you choose yes, there are two more options. Public opinion is either going to agree with you, or it won’t. Can you handle if it public opinion doesn’t go your way?

Let’s take a look at what could happen.

How the Media portrays Special Education kids.

This is one of my favorite examples. Mostly because it’s so awful. And, because I know some of the people who were interviewed for this article. They rightfully believed (and were led to believe) that this was their chance to be heard. Finally! Our kids were going to get some press, and people would finally know how special ed students are treated.

Then, the article was published. With a slant. And not in our favor.

A few quotes:

But most of all, I won’t have to decide whether Charissa Stone is the mother of a child whose disabilities really do qualify her for the extra attention of special ed, or just the epitome of the modern-day suburban Philadelphia Tiger Mom: overanxious, over-involved, and infuriated that the school district considers her daughter … average.

See that, parents? We’re not great advocates, fighting for what our kids need and are entitled to, per Federal law. We’re just overanxious and over-involved.

Furthermore, in that same article:

“The costs of special ed eat regular programs,” says Penn’s James Lytle. “Districts end up cutting art or music, and that generates antagonism. Meanwhile, special-ed parents get the districts to pay for all sorts of therapy—ballet lessons, horseback r­iding—that seem extreme.” 

Are you steamed yet? I am. Kids just want to know how to f*cking read. We’re not asking for ballet lessons. But that is what the media would have you think.

You can read the full article here: Where All the Children Are Above Average. And seriously, what is up with that title. Oh well, enough of Ms. Hingston and her uninformed slanted writing. Let’s move on.

Old Perceptions are alive and well.

There are many incorrect perceptions out there about our kids. Things like they don’t deserve to be in school with regular kids. That they’re all behavior problems, dangerous, and detracting from the gen ed kids’ education. And, don’t you know–it’s because of our kids that your high school cannot have a marching band or lighted football stadium. Yep, whatever it is that your school cannot afford, it’s because of kids like mine.

Even 40+ years after IDEA 1975, many of these perceptions are alive and well. And with the internet, people feel emboldened and empowered to tell you just how they feel about your kid.

There have been many special ed stories in the news media. In New Jersey, one autistic child was bullied by his teachers. And, another was dropped of at the wrong house by his school bus and left there (he is non-verbal).

Frustrated parents took to the media to be heard. Here is some of what they received in response.

autistic child left at wrong house and this is the comment left
Yep, Dad is a “creep” for posting this. And he made a mountain out of a molehill.
dad comments about disabled child
Nevermind that his kid was left at the wrong house after school, Dad is just looking for attention. And, the R word. This is where we are.

Perception about Special Education

This one hits home for me. Mostly because my child attends a school that is what you would call a “Life Skills” school. Very little traditional curriculum is taught there, because that is not what kids like my son need. Yet, anyway.

But look at this comment, posted on yet another special needs newspaper article.

autistic child news media comments

Lovely, isn’t it? This is not what she wants for “her” tax dollars. In fact, she doesn’t want to have to pay for him at all. Despite the fact that my tax dollars (and yours, too) benefit her all the time–roads, EMS, public workers, etc. But I guess it better not go to ‘those’ kids, huh?

Trolls, Social Media, etc.

I realize that some of the examples I’ve offered are old. However, the information is still relevant. And, many news outlets delete comments after a certain amount of time, so some of the examples I really wanted to show are no longer available.

Here is a video of an Ohio teacher dragging a student through a hallway. And yep, you guessed it.

teacher drags student

Some of the comments will be from trolls and some will not. Sometimes the trolls empower others to speak how they really feel.

Several years ago, my next-door-neighbor told me that she was upset that “those mentally retarded people are allowed to vote.” We haven’t spoken since. And we have been living next door to each other since 1999. Sometimes you just don’t know how people really feel, and one day, they show you.

My personal experience

Back in 2012, I was involved in a case that received a ton of publicity. Someone related to the case compiled a spreadsheet of links to articles. Mind you, this was not my child. It was a client, and I was working for an agency at the time. The decision to go to the press was not mine to make.

We had a ton of documentation of discriminatory behavior, not just toward my client, but other students and groups of students. (such as making a reference that the Latino students should seek employment as gardeners)

It was that bad. And, it was me who sort of “blew the lid off the case” because of a text I saw.

My name was published in several articles. To this day, it has affected me professionally. There are still many parents in that local community who think it was me who “got rid of a really good principal.”

The student and his family had been ostracized by his local community for years. To the extent that one time, he was hit by a car while skateboarding, and no one would stop to help him, because he was “that kid.” And that story was verified independently by several community and school board members.

It did not help us with the case at hand. The publicity did not help the family. It also did not add the public support that many had hoped for. Lots and lots of community members sided with the principal.

I was called names online. My house had a landline at the time, and I received calls telling me to “mind my own business.” It actually made my work harder, not easier, as far as being an advocate for this particular child. And this is just one comment made by said principal:

principal comments

Please, just think it through.

I think when parents want to go to the media, it’s a knee-jerk, emotional reaction. And, we wrongly assume that once this injustice is brought to light, everything will change. Lastly, the decision is yours to make. But, please have a plan for what you will do if things don’t go your way.

denver abuse incident

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